Edinburgh International Festival 2013 – Preview

Edinburgh International Festival 2013 – Preview

EIF Director Jonathan Mill, copyright Eoin Carey

During his first few years in the job Jonathan Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, liked to organise his festivals along themes. He moved away from that last year, but this year sees a return to a central idea for the festival. It’s that of interfaces, and how technology can impact art. To quote from this year’s programme, “Festival 2013 throws light on the relationship between artists and technologies: how new developments can influence how artists work and how they in turn influence technologies.” At the programme launch this week, Mills talked about how technological innovation can have a vast range of impacts, from John Broadwood, the piano manufacturer, inventing a metal piano frame as a substitute for the timber one, through to Samuel Beckett writing a range of plays for performance in new media outside of the theatre.

This year’s festival sets out to explore those relationships through a wide range of media. The Opera de Lyon return to the Festival with a new production of Fidelio, marking the directorial debut of Gary Hill, the video designer, who will use this technology to set the opera in the future, on a doomed spacecraft as it hurtles into infinity. The Wooster Group return with a new production of Hamlet, taking as its starting point the cinematic relay of Richard Burton’s performance of the play in 1964 and exploring the relationship between the live experience and the recorded one. Leaving Planet Earth is a new piece from the site-specific theatre company Grid Iron which begins in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and moves to the post-apocalyptic setting of the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in Ratho. Two Dublin theatre companies, Pan Pan and The Gate, mount a series of Samuel Beckett plays, none of which were originally written for the theatre, and Philip Glass and Patti Smith collaborate in The Poet Speaks, a tribute to Allen Ginsberg. The collaborations continue in the Festival’s first collaboration with The Royal Collections in a display of Leonardo da Vinci’s work on anatomy, and Nam June Paik’s extraordinarily prescient use of technology in art is showcased at the Talbot Rice Gallery.

The exploration of technology is also strong in the music programme, both looking forwards and looking back. There is a strong 20th Century music strain in this year’s festival. Ilan Volkov conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in seminal works by Berio and Varèse, and Scottish Opera bring a new version of Lulu with the input of Olga Neuwirth. Elsewhere, though, the exploration of technology delves into the past, with Christoph Rousset playing a harpsichord from the University of Edinburgh’s collection and Nicola Boud delving into the development of the clarinet. There is also a strong contemporary music element. Ensemble Musik Fabrik bring a tribute to Frank Zappa and Pierre-Laurent Aimard collaborates with Marco Stroppa in an exploration of composers like Kurtág and Stockhausen. Most interestingly, Tod Machover is writing a new piece, Festival City, which will be based around contributions from members of the public. If you want to be a contributory composer in this year’s festival then click here for details of how.

Other big hitters on the music scene include two concerts each from the Bavarian RSO, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Russian National Orchestra, Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble and Zurich Tonhalle. There is a typically strong showing from Scottish Orchestras, including Runnicles conducting the Verdi Requiem, Ticciati conducting the Faure Requiem and the RSNO in Adams’ City Noir. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra also feature in the opening concert, Gergiev conducting Prokofiev, and the Concertgebouw does Mahler 9 with Daniele Gatti. The Queen’s Hall also has a strong line-up, including Christian Gerhaher, Bernarda Fink and Werner Güra in song recitals, and instrumentalists like Midori, Nikolai Lugansky and Andreas Haefliger, as well as a collection of chamber groups.

This is to mention but a few. You can get full details here. Edinburgh is always the most exciting place in the world to be in August, and I think Mills has hit on a really interesting idea for this year. I can’t wait to see the sparks fly come the summer.

Booking for Festival Friends is already open. Public booking opens on Saturday 23rd March.

Simon Thompson